Care home visits during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

We're working closely with all adult social care providers in Barnsley to help them respond to the challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

All adult social care services are using personal protective equipment (PPE) and are doing additional cleaning of all surfaces. 

In Barnsley we've rolled out staff testing to anyone who is working in a care home.

On 4 January 2021 the government published new national lockdown guidance. This guidance states that visits to care homes can take place with arrangements such as substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows. Close-contact indoor visits are only allowed in exceptional circumstances, eg for residents receiving end of life care. No visits will be permitted in the event of an outbreak.

Are care homes in Barnsley open to visitors?

In Barnsley, care homes are being encouraged and supported to provide safe visiting opportunities for the family and friends of their residents.

Before visits are allowed in care homes, the director of public health will provide a professional assessment of the appropriateness of visiting care homes in the local authority area, considering infection rates and the wider risk environment. The decision on whether or not to allow visitors, and in what circumstances, is an operational decision and ultimately for the care home and its managers to make.

We're working with our homes to implement the national care home guidance. This requires care homes to review risk of COVID-19 infection along with the best interests of the resident. It recommends measures that can be put in place to provide COVID-secure opportunities for families to meet, using visiting arrangements such as substantial screens, visiting pods and window visits.

Maintaining some opportunities for visiting to take place is critical for supporting the health and wellbeing of residents and their relationships with friends and family.

The care home obligations to residents’ rights and wellbeing mean that it may be appropriate or necessary for homes to apply different rules for different residents or categories of resident, based on an assessment of risk of contracting COVID-19 in relation to such residents as well as the potential benefits of visits to them. This is explained in the advice for providers when taking visiting decisions for particular residents or groups of residents.

Do I need to have a COVID-19 test to visit a relative?

No, the national guidance doesn't require you to take a test before visiting a care home.

Work is ongoing to identify opportunities for testing visitors to care homes.

If you're experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, or have in the last ten days, you should not enter the premises.

How should I travel to the care home?

We'd advise you to avoid travelling on public transport to the care home. If possible, you should travel by car or walk. 

What restrictions are there in care homes?

Care homes will be following strict policies and procedures to ensure residents, staff and visitors are safe, including high quality infection prevention and control practices.

Appropriate PPE should be worn throughout the visit and social distancing of 2 metres (between visitors and residents, staff, and visitors from other households) must always be maintained.

The care home should have good ventilation, ease of access for residents and limit visitors moving through the residential areas. The care home visiting guidance recommends the use of substantial screens, visiting pods, and window visits.

A dedicated room such as a conservatory (ie a room that can be entered directly from outside) can be used. It should be used only by one resident and visitor, have an access point from outside, have a substantial (eg floor to ceiling) screen between the resident and the visitor, have good ventilation, be cleaned between visits, and allow 2 metre social distancing.

Can I visit a relative who is on an end of life pathway?

In line with the national guidance, and at the care home's discretion, family members and friends should be able to visit residents receiving end of life care. This may include an 'in-room visit'.

How many people can visit a care home at any one time?

Care homes have been advised to allow one family member or friend per resident to visit wherever possible, with an maximum of two constant visitors per resident.

Visits will need to be booked in advance and you should check on the day, just in case the situation has changed.

Can I take my relative out on a day trip?

Due to the national restrictions announced on 4 January 2021, you should not take a resident outside of their care home.

Information about your visit

As an allocated visitor, the care home should have provided you with a copy of their visiting policy before your visit.

Preparing for your visit

  • You must book your visit in advance; ad-hoc visits cannot be accommodated.
  • Try to avoid using public transport to travel to the care home if you can.
  • You must bring a face covering with you.
  • If you bring a gift for the resident, this must be something that can be easily cleaned with sanitised wipes eg a wrapped box of chocolates.

During your visit

  • You'll be asked to register your attendance at the home on arrival.
  • Your temperature may be checked.
  • You'll be asked to use hand sanitiser or wash your hands when you arrive.
  • You shouldn't have any contact with other residents.
  • There should be minimal contact with staff (less than 15 minutes).
  • There may be a glass or plastic barrier between you and the resident.
  • Social distancing of 2 metres will be in place, and skin-to-skin contact should be kept to a minimum.
  • Drinks won't be provided, but you're welcome to bring one with you.
  • You must not share your drink or food with the resident.
  • Access to a toilet may be available at the discretion of the home.

When you should not visit a care home

You should not visit the home if you have:

  • been feeling unwell in the last ten days
  • had recent onset of a new continuous cough
  • a high temperature
  • noticed a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell
  • coronavirus (COVID-19) yourself
  • had contact with anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test within the last 14 days  
  • been told to self-isolate as a contact by NHS Test and Trace

Keeping in touch with your relative if you can't visit 

Many care homes offer other ways for residents to stay in contact with their family and friends. Some of these include: gardens visits, window visits, drive-through visits, recording messages, using social media and video calls such as Zoom or FaceTime.

Please discuss with the care home the best way for you and your family member or friend to stay connected.